Coast Guard Concludes Investigation of Long Island Sound Collision

New York – The U.S. Coast Guard announced today that it has concluded its investigation into the cause of an early morning collision between the motor vessel BARKALD and the sailing vessel ESSENCE in Long Island Sound Sept. 20, 2006, that left a crewmember onboard the ESSENCE dead. Ms. Gina Bortolotti, a cook onboard the ESSENCE, drowned in the aftermath of the collision. The investigation found that the primary cause of the collision was the failure of the mate of the ESSENCE to properly identify the aspect of the lights of the BARKALD and to take proper action to avoid a collision as required by the Inland Navigation Rules.

Contributing factors cited in the Coast Guard investigation include the failure of both vessels to adequately determine that a risk of collision existed as well as inadequate communications between both vessels as they approached each other in a meeting situation. The investigation ruled out mechanical failure and weather as possible factors in the collision. Further, the investigation determined that each vessel’s navigation lights and navigation equipment were working properly and alcohol and drug tests conducted on both crews were negative.

“First and foremost this was a tragic accident, and we again express our deepest heartfelt condolences to Ms. Gina Bortolotti’s family, friends and shipmates everywhere,” said Capt. Daniel Ronan, Commander of Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound and Captain of the Port. “As tragic as this accident was, it does reinforce the need for all of us to remain ever attentive to the rules of navigation and ever vigilant to the inherent dangers of the sea to ensure safety for ourselves and other mariners.”

The 623-foot coal carrier BARKALD was transiting in Long Island Sound outbound to Halifax, Nova Scotia, from Bridgeport, Conn., and the 92-foot sailing vessel ESSENCE, with three persons onboard, was transiting inbound to Greenwich, Conn., from Newport R.I., when the vessels collided in New York state waters about 12 miles southeast of New Haven Harbor, Conn., shortly after 4:00 a.m. Following the collision, the ESSENCE sank, leaving the three crewmembers in the water.

The pilot aboard the BARKALD immediately notified the Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound Command Center in New Haven. Upon receiving the report, the Coast Guard launched a 25-foot rescue boat from Station New Haven. The Coast Guard rescue boat crew pulled the ESSENCE mate and cook from the water and transferred them to EMS personnel waiting on shore. The two were then rushed to Yale New Haven Hospital where Ms. Gina Bortolotti was pronounced dead. The mate, Mr. Nardus Bothma, was treated for hypothermia and released.

Following the collision, the BARKALD launched one of the ship’s lifeboats and was able to recover the ESSENCE master, Mr. Ian Robberts.

For more information on navigation rules, please visit the Coast Guard’s Navigation Center.

The Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S. Power Squadron offers courses on boating safety and navigation rules, among other course titles.

For questions regarding this investigation please contact Ms. Dawn Kallen, Chief Investigations Division at Sector Long Island Sound (203) 468- 4506.

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One Comment

  1. David black says:

    I have been following this accident since the day it happened and feel many questions are still unanswered in the findings.
    Was the mate licensed?
    What were the standing orders and why wsn’t the
    Master notified of a potential problem?
    What the Essence under sail or power or both?
    Did the Essence have radar, was it on and was the
    Mate trained in it use?
    The Essence was a non US flagged vessel yet I
    read reports it was voyaging to a US Port to
    take on paying passengers to another US Port,
    was not addressed, why?
    What were the Mate’s qualifications for the
    he was operating under at the time?

    The loss of life due to not being able to determine a vessel’s aspect from it’s navigational lights and these questions not being answered, leaves me asking questions as to what good are they if operators do not reconized and understand them, and the operation of the US Inland Rules of the Road in helping prevent collisions. When a master is jailed for moving a vessel in Mobile and knocks down a crane and the results kills a person and yet a seaborne death where in The Rules of the Road are completely ignored nothing happens, there is a major problem here.